Not quiet the bull shark aquarium as Cookatoo Island but the eastern side of Farm Cove just off Lady Macquarie’s chair is not known as bull shark alley for nothing.
Here we are at the end of the race on the pontoon beside the Man O’War steps where the gallons of gallant water warriers leaped in about 35 or so minutes before hand. Surfmuppet can barely get up one of the steel ladders from the spot behind the timing thingamajig where the punters have to hold up the timing chips attached to their left wrists in order to register completion of the race.
Turning to walk the plank back to dry land who does he spy coming up the ladder, like the Predator coming over the crest of the hill to chop up Sonny Landham in Arnie’s Predator 1 movie, but the Taxman. Looking really pissed off. And why wouldn’t he be, having been muppeted, albeit inadvertently.
The clan gathered earlier in the corner of the botanic gardens closest to the Opera House and beside the steps where the British Navy used to land and embark crews and materials for adventures on the high seas.
Lots of tents set up with goodies galore on show which always gladdens the hearts of the ocean swimming hordes. P&O, the major sponsor, have branding all over the place including on one of their cruise ships planted in the middle of the harbour.
The registration process is swift and efficient and the lime green swim cap a thick latex which is novel as most swims give out the more brittle thin rubber ones which have a lot lower life expectancy, especially when used in the pool. Next up a number on both arms, then over to the free stuff tent for a race show bag with P&O towel, a couple of water bottles, a BSC sun visor and other gear.
Under a big Moreton Bay Fig where a gathering of BF’ers have composed themselves on the grass to get ready for the fray. Slip, slop, slap, balancing on one leg with towels wrapped around loins getting costumes on are many of the people. The crowd swells as the hour turns over and all the littlies prepare for the 300m and 750m races. Some unsavoury comments from the gang about how the young ones will look nice and tender for any lurking beasties and so will flush them out early so the main event can go on without giant sardines with teeth interruptions.
The order of the waves has changed and everyone over 40, male and female, are lumped together in one big uber wave. Lined up and funnelled through the gates leading out to the steps there’s a passing resemblance to the mass of sperm characters in the Woody Allen film “Everything you wanted to know about sex but were afraid to ask”. All shuffle on through.
The sun beats down and the music thumps out of the speakers set up for the occasion. The commentator makes a joke about the P&O Liner being one of the cans and instantly the word passes around the Peleton about whether he’s serious, then puzzled looks as to which direction around the Liner we have to swim, then it’s your man back on the mike saying he was only joking, to ignore the last comment. The rumour keeps going a bit so maybe that’s what happened to the Taxman, he ended up swimming around the ship.
Soon the monster wave has jumped into the water and is under starter’s orders. The water is grand and warm, salty as the harbour tends to be, and reasonably clear – lots of legs and arms waving about.
They’re off and the surfmuppet is up and at ‘em at a reasonable clip. Doesn’t let up for the whole race. Didn’t intend to compete this hard but the horse has now bolted and the Journo is toe tapping all the way across the cove and around the first can. Down the east side of the cove they go, past the stands for the Opera under the Stars or the Moonlight Cinema or the Naked Jelly Wrestling or whatever the coves in charge of the Sydney Festival have come up with. Journo still there tapping away and letting all know, in the inimitable ladylike fashion of hers, that she’s an ocean orca hunter killer dreadnought and will have any pound of flesh on offer.
They turn right at the bottom of the Cove and a surprising amount of chop starts to bounce the aquanauts around the place. Lots of biff and bashing going on. Then it’s back up the harbour, confusion at the second last buoy, then out into the middle of the cove again and left turn for the long slog back into the steps.
And it’s a long slog for the surfmuppet is by now a spent force. Falls a good five metres behind at the second last buoy and has worked hard to catch up. Starts trying to keep up with pedestrians stolling along serenely in the botanic gardens. Or, will give up at that next tree, that kind of positive thinking. The Journo poised to strike like a sea cobra over the right shoulder. The navy banner on white metal frame of the timing thingamajig remorseless in its distain to approach.
Then, within striking distance of the end, about 50 metres to go but all hope abandoned, the miracle of Dunkirk happens. Just as Hitler’s panzers stop in their tracks and the British Army is allowed to escape from the beaches, mysteriously the Journo sets off across the harbour to visit Ms Gillard for morning tea in Kirribilli House.
Surfmuppet cannot believe what is happening but you’ll all understand why he doesn’t take off after her to bring the errant one back into the fold. No. Just strokes away for the finish (mercifully just there), can barely lift the arm up to the timing thingy, then the challenge of getting up the ladder.
Buoyed up by the sight of the crestfallen Taxman back from the trip around the Liner, get a pair of thongs for finishing, some more promotional sunblock and sit with the gang listening to other people winning the prizes. The Amber Gambler wins the trip to some islands north of Queensland so all is well with the universe as her surprise looks genuine and so the draw doesn’t look like it was rigged.
Finish up the morning in a cafe on George Street in the Rocks with the Journo and the Taxman hogging Apfelstrudel in a Christoph Waltz “Inglourious Basterds” like moment. Talk about weight loss challenges and the like but that’s just the salt water backed up in the canals of the middle ear.
Advance Australia Fair!